Sunday, November 22, 2015

Artiom Krikunov 13 Questions

Photo Oisin Gormally

Artiom Krikunov was born in the USSR in 1984. He started guitar at the age of 12 and took courses of classical music with profs from the local conservatory. As a teenager he got interested in jazz and improvisational music. Later in Paris he graduated from ASMM/IMEP where he studied improvisation, composition and arrangement with Rick Margitza, Christopher Culpo, Bernard Vidal among others. Under the influence of guitarists like Joe Pass, Ted Greene, Lenny Breau and Ralph Towner as well as pianists like Keith Jarret, Andy LaVerne, Mark Copeland and Richard Beirach Artiom started a career as a solo guitar player.
 Photo Andrew Kovalev

In December 2013 he recorded his first solo guitar EP Paris Sessions consisting of his own arrangements of American Song Book standards. In 2014 Artiom recorded a duo EP Bandstand with Noël Akchoté. Recently he is residing between Paris and Saint-Petersburg, publishing solo guitar arrangements of Russian classical music (Scriabin, Mussorgsky, Rachmaninov), teaching, recoding his first LP and editing a book of Noël Akchoté’s works and playing in local venues of Paris, Bruxelles and Koln.

Can you describe a sound experience that you believe contributed to your becoming a musician?

It all started in the mid 1980’s when I was about 3. Every day my dad brought me home after the kindergarten and we used to listen to music for an hour or two while my mom was cooking a dinner. My dad is a 70’s rock fan. So the first LPs that I was influenced by were ‘Dark Side of The Moon’ and ‘Physical Graffiti’. And it was all guitar music, so I think it was my first step to become a guitarist. A few years after my dad brought home a guitar. A friend asked him to help to sell it or whatever. It was a white Gretch-looking like hollowbody and dad let me fool around whit it. I was 5 or 6 and didn’t have any idea how to play. I just hit the strings. And it was such a great feeling. It was the first musical instrument I’ve ever touched and I was so amazed by the sound it produced. 25 years after I still get amazed by the sound of a guitar.

Photo Andrew Kovalev

What was the first and the last record you bought with your own money?

The first one was Sepultura ‘Arise’ or Slayer ‘Reign In Blood’. As a teenager I was into thrash and death metal. Back in the 90’s it was popular. And through these bands I discovered progressive death metal like Death and Cynic, and later on Dream Theatre, and that brought me back to the 70’s to King Crimson and Yes, and later to the fusion music of Joe Zawinul, Miles and Jaco, and in the end I found Duke Ellington. So it was quite a long way.

The last record was Keith Jarrett ‘Koln Concert’. Finally I decided to get myself a vinyl of this great LP.

How's your musical routine practice?

I work on my repertoire 3 hours almost every day. Just play tunes. Try new pieces; spend an hour or two to arrange a couple of new ones. I still transcribe licks. Every time I hear an interesting phrase, I stop the record and put it on the paper. I read a lot of books written by piano players to study the pianistic approach to the solo guitar playing. The last one was ‘The Jazz Piano Book’ by Mark Levine.

Photo Andrew Kovalev

Tell me one musical work which has provoked a change in your music.

Joe Pass ‘Virtuoso’. After I’ve heard it for the first time I told my self ‘I don’t know how he does it, but I want to play like that’.

What is your relationship with other disciplines such as painting, literature, dance, theater?

I always wanted to collaborate with any other artists like writers/poets, dancers or actors but I’ve never had a chance. In my opinion it’s really important to make a fusion of different types of art, visual and audio. I always think about Russian ballet and all these great shows in Mariinsky theatre in Saint-Petersburg with dancing, decorations, lights and music mixed together, or amazing opera shows in Teatro La Fenice in Venice, or Pink Floyd’s ‘TheWall’, or Marc Ribot playing soundtracks for silent movies.

Tell me one impossible project you’d like to realize?

To arrange ‘Isle of the Dead’ by Sergei Rachmaninov for solo guitar.

What quality do you most empathize with in a musician?

Not to be in competition with others. Music is not a sport game. Unfortunately a lot of musicians forget about it.

Depict the sound you're still looking for, or the sound you'd like to hear.

I always wanted to sound like a piano player. To have the sustain the piano has. So these days I’m checking out different reverb pedals, trying to put them in the loop with the dry signal of the guitar.

Which living or dead artist would you like to collaborate with?

Chet Baker. The king of sadness and solitude. I have no idea what kind of person he was even that I’ve seen ‘Let’s Get Lost’. But I understand his music a lot. I have the same feelings.

What special or extrange techniques do you use?

I try to play as much pianistically as possible. For example applying the knowledge I got from Lenny Breau’s records and from arrangement courses I took with Rick Margitza. Putting minor and major seconds inside voicings to create ‘modal’ chords. Or using baroque voice leading that Ted Greene was famous for. I wouldn’t call it a special technique, but every time I work on a solo guitar arrangement I consider my instrument to be a little big band where every section (bass, chord tones, melody) works individually.

What instruments and tools do you prefer?

A very simple set. A 1991 Gibson ES-175 that I’ve been playing for almost 10 years, a Henriksen JazzAmp 110 and a couple of pedals: EHX Freeze and Earthquaker Devices ‘The Warden’ compressor.

Which is the main pleasure of the strings? What are their main limitation?

I don’t think I find any pleasure in a guitar because it’s a string or fretted or plucked instrument. I just love it because it is a guitar. There’s some mojo in this instrument. So you feel it or you don’t. As for limitations, sure we don’t have as many octaves as piano has, or we can’t have the same sustain, and we obviously can’t play 10 notes at the same time. And because of that I can’t play Prokofiev’s ‘Visions Fugitives’ or ‘Chelsea Bridge’ the way Billy Strayhorn used to do. But we have our own little tricks. The ease of parallel chords move, artificial harmonics etc.

What projects are you working on now and what does the future hold?

Right now I’m working on some pieces for my upcoming LP. There are going to be solo guitar arrangements of tunes composed by contemporary pianists like Marc Copland, Richie Beirach, Andy LaVerne and others.

Photo Andrew Kovalev

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Photo Oisin Gormally